Saint Seiya and Sailor Moon: Great Hits That Laid the Foundation for Anime Product Making
The so-called “anime shops,” specialty stores offering goods to anime fans including the adult generation, were born around the time of the first anime boom, marked by Space Battleship Yamato. Animate, the chain that managed to grow itself into Japan’s largest of its kind, was born in 1983, the year when Gunpla entranced boys and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross aired. Their products were mostly posters and stationery, a poor selection in comparison with the present.
“There is more than one anime that became a turning point for us in terms of product making. Eva is one of those as well, but the basics of product development in anime goods had been gradually established from before. For example, until the mid-80s, anime such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Urusei Yatsura that were in the center of anime fans’ attention at the time occupied the bigger half of the market. It was the ‘86 TV anime Saint Seiya that turned this situation upside down.
“In Animate’s history, Seiya was the first for which we created products taking characters as our basic unit instead of titles. For example, with Urusei Yatsura, even if there were products solely featuring Lum, you couldn’t find products of Shinobu. But with Seiya, production went along on five lines for the five main characters, the Bronze Saints. This was brought on by female fans. There were girls who liked shonen manga before, but it was Seiya that really extended this audience. I think it was also at that time that the foundation for girls who frequent what is now called the “Otome Road” was laid. This is because the items that used to be only produced in one kind became five times as much thanks to the five Bronze Saints (laughs), and the product range suddenly expanded to new dimensions. Then came Ronin Warriors, speeding up the process by coupling the characters and their voice actors into a set. You could say that it was Ronin Warriors that established the custom of holding events starring the voice actors in order to sell video and LD packages.”
It wasn’t until the ‘90s that otaku girls awakened and embraced their nature. At this time, a certain anime pierced the hearts of male anime fans: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, starring Kotono Mitsuishi in the role of Usagi Tsukino, who later played Misato Katsuragi in Eva. “Around that time, I had a foot in the world of model kits, with perhaps my first creations being garage kits that weren’t mass produced. At the time, Movic had exclusive rights to making Sailor Moon garage kits. No one thought garage kits would sell that well, but the sculptor we worked with at the time had good foresight, and as soon as he saw the broadcast of the first episode, he said, “Get me the rights.” It sold amazingly well, to the point that the line at our booth at the following Wonder Festival made a circle around the venue (laughs). After Sailor Moon, there came many anime, intended at male or female audiences, that drew from the successful experience of past hits. If you’ve watched anime for many years you’ll know that entering such a loop will result in a tendency similar to regressive reproduction. What will be popular next, no one knows.”
There were similar circumstances in the world of TV anime, where no explosive hit shows had been born in a long time. “And just when everybody thought so, Evangelion came along.”
- Which was the pioneer of anime shops?
The first anime shop specially intended toward anime fans, including the adult generations, was Animec run by Rapport, a publisher known for Animec and Fanroad, anime magazines we don’t have today. Their first shop was in Shinjuku, and later they opened more than 10 shops from Hokkaido to Kyushu. The later emergence of various other anime shops, however, had a sizeable impact on the chain’s existence.